Richard White

explorations in place and time

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One Lost Stone

website review: the virus forces the imagination.

The show that became a website.

screen grab from website

An experience we could not have imagined: One Lost Stone, directed by Thomas Kampe for Pascal Theatre Company was coming together as Covid-19 struck. In the time of the virus we could not gather, the theatres closed, we retreated to lock down and online. What would have been a collaborative public performance in an old Jewish cemetery in London’s East End has metamorphosed to a website.

One Lost Stone is part of Pascal Theatre Company’s Discovering and Documenting England’s Lost Jews project. Billed as ‘a digital travel guide’ into Sephardi Heritage in England, the website reveals an obscured history of Jewish people in this country exploring a reluctant heritage of welcome and anti-semitism.

The virus has forced imagination and inventiveness and this is an example. Much of the research is creatively re-purposed and powerfully presented, characters begin to emerge and elements of the performance infuse the presentation. This is part of the story of Jews in England, Jews whose forebears had made the long journey of exile from Spain, Syria, Egypt and Turkey. As we discover in this travel guide the Jewish diaspora is a complex and tangled story of vicious persecution, resistance and exile. One Lost Stone reveals the Sephardi story through a burial ground in London.

We are reminded of England’s shameful heritage of conditional welcome, the Christian hegemony that, whilst providing a place to live, required Jews to conduct themselves in specific ways, to become bankers and money lenders and to wear the infamous yellow star later adopted by the Nazis in the C20th. Just like racism, anti-semitism is a poisonous thread running through the history of England. Expelled by order of the King in 1290, Jews eventually returned but the law proscribing a form of dress for Jews in this country was only repealed in 1846.

One Lost Stone enables the visitor to sample history and context of the Sephardi experience without proscribing a linear history or driving a particular narrative route. One can jump from background information to the story of a particular individual, discover a character in the narrative, hear a reading from an archive document or view a short video sequence, such as the powerful animation using the Alhambra Decree. Layers of history and experience coincide with present day reflection, often stimulated by sensitive soundscapes.

‘In fourteen hundred and ninety two’, goes the old school history rhyme, ‘Columbus sailed the ocean blue’, but the official history I learned at school did not add that this was the same year in which the Jew were expelled from Spain. The same King and Queen who Columbus was working for signed that Edict of Explulsion, the Alhambra Decree.

The visual look and feel of the site is held together with Thomas Kampe’s graphics, and punctuated with his short digital assemblages. A core visual element of the site is a series of paintings by Anne Sassoon, a Sephardi artist. Sassoon’s work is informed by her own diasporic journey and observations from Cape Town, via London to In the context of the ongoing academic and cultural boycott of Israel the use of work on this website by an Israeli artist is worth noting. Based in South Africa in the apartheid era she made drawings for publication of political trials and her husband, journalist Benjamin Pogrund, was a confidante of Nelson Mandela. Briefly imprisoned, and with many brushes with the law for his reporting on apartheid in South Africa, he has recently expressed concern that Israel’s further annexation of Palestinian land would mirror apartheid.

The website is populated with rediscovered stories and voices of Sephardi women previously silenced or lost. There is the account of Emilia Bassano, the first woman of Jewish identity to have published poetry in England in 1611, reputedly the Dark Woman of Shakespeare’s sonnets. A click on a file releases a dramatic reading of Bassano’s Eve’s Poem, ‘Apology in Defense of Women’. Presenting a feminist refusal to condemn Eve she declares that men’s knowledge has been stolen from women.

Yet Men will boast of Knowledge, which he took
From Eve’s fair hand, as from a learned Book

We can listen to oral histories and inherited memories of places, family and exile. Foods and meals infused with the flavours of a multigenerational international journey from Spain to Baghdad, from Bulgaria to Manchester. Unlike the Jews who arrived in England after the Holocaust with fresh memories of horror and tragedy and only the clothes they stood up in, this is a different story of survival and resistance told by Jews who can take their family story back to 1492 and before.

And in a click on another Kampe graphic we arrive at the Mile End Cemeteries and discover a visual poem by Moses Ben Ezra riffing on names and broken gravestones. The stage perhaps is set, two graveyards the old, the Velho and a fragment of the new, the Novo, now enclosed and overlooked by new academic buildings. On the website, photographs and testimony held gently in a sonic embrace. A layered reading of names and epitaphs and the ghost of a character in Kampe’s drama emerges, no Smiths or Jones here, says the undead and watchful guardian of the graveyard, what do these Jews dream of, she wonders…Check, check, checkcant seem to die, so many dead to watch over… She muses over the removal of remains to a field in Essex and their lost grave stones…where are the words that will give us their lives, she asks. Viewing the orderly grid of surviving gravestones thoughts of the mass graves of the Holocaust are never far away.

This is genuinely a content rich website full of stories, poetry and philosophy, and resonant with Kozokaro’s haunting soundscapes.  There are, however, issues of register and audience here; in places the site is text heavy and audio full of promise often settles to old school Open University lecture style delivery. I yearned for more music and informal voices, more glimpses of the planned performance that the short documentary on the main site offers tantalising moments of work-in-progress. Kampe’s tremendous moving image sequences shouted to be projected huge on the modernist slabs overlooking the burial ground. Nevertheless, what a journey this travel guide takes us on; so many discoveries from Shakespeare’s collaborator to the origins of Fish and Chips with an anti-semitic spin on The Great Plague to bring us back to the virus.

Covid has revealed much that is rotten in the state of this country but it has also forced imagination to great things, this website is one of them. An intriguing resource on Sephardi heritage, beautifully made. But I still want to see the show!

One Lost Stone

Available at:

Discovering and Documenting England’s Lost Jews

Available at:

Richard White: Artist-researcher. Senior Lecturer in Media Practice. Bath Spa University


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After Auschwitz

Upcoming London exhibition with Lorna Brunstein at Hundred Years Gallery. Installation films/recorded live performance, assembled artefacts photography.

 ‘After Auschwitz’ is an immersive multi-media installation reflecting on the impact of the two visits to the Death Camp. It features soil gathered from the site, specifically from the soles of the shoes of members of the Unite Against Fascism group who accompanied Lorna on the visits around the site. Timely and deeply personal meditation on the lasting impact of fascism.

Thursday 5 September 6 -9.30pm : Opening Event
Friday 6 September 6.30-8pm : Informal talk/discussion of issues raised and contemporary resonance with representatives from Unite Against Fascism

Gallery hours: Thursday 12 – 9.30pm Friday 12 – 7pm
Saturday 2 – 7pm, Sunday 12 – 6pm

Screening of Variations on an inheritance in soil, flowers and flesh: A sequence of short films by Richard White with Lorna Brunstein and Alicia White.

Hundred Years Gallery

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Embodied Learning: Moving Creativity and Agency

A Call for Presentations:

Embodied Learning: Moving Creativity and Agency                                      One–day Symposium Oct 19th 2019,                                                                         followed by a one day workshop  on Oct 20th  with Glenna Batson (US/IE)

Bath Spa University, Newton Park Campus, Bath (UK)

Key presenter Prof. Em. Glenna Batson (US/IE)                                                                                                                            

Convenors Thomas Kampe & Mary Steadman,                                                                                                                      (Creative Corporealities Research Group (CCRG), Bath Spa University)

This one-day symposium addresses issues around embodiment in learning, education and performer training. Through practical explorations, academic presentations, workshop sessions, artistic interaction and debate we will explore how a somatic-turn in learning, education and training can contribute to a meaningful and critical education to ‘humanize humanity’ (Morin 1999:10 ) in the context of global and civilisatory crises. The symposium will be followed by a one- day workshop by Glenna Batson. The symposium and workshop will be held on the beautiful Newton Park Campus of Bath Spa University, and is organised through the Creative Corporealities Research Group (CCRG) located within the Bath School of Music and Performance.

The convenor team invites educators, academics and artists to contribute to this pertinent symposium through lectures, workshops, panel discussions artistic presentations or alternative formats.

Presentation formats: 20 minutes lecture presentations; 60 min or 90 min workshops; 60 min panel discussions; 30 – 45 min artistic presentations. Skype presentations and alternative formats of presentations are welcomed.

Topics might include:

Embodied and Enactivist Cognition and Pedagogies; Embodied Performance Practices and Performer Training; New Materialism & Posthumanism;  Deconstruction and Embodiment; Somatic Activism & Applied Somatics; Touch as Learning Modality; Agency, Empathy & Liveness; Somatic Performance Cultures; Eco & Walking Arts; Embodying Gender; Critiquing Whiteness – Decolonising Practice; Embodying Diversity; Embodiment in the Digital Age; Eco-Somatics & Eco-Crisis;  Re-Embodiment and Re-Empowerment; Movement and Well-being in Education.

Presenter fee: £ 35 / workshop fee £ 35  – concessions are available. The symposium will be self-funding.

Submission format : 250 words long proposal & 250 word biog

Deadline for proposals: 09/08/2019 . Feedback by 23/08/2019

Please send proposals and biogs to:

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(dis)enchantments and perambulations….

(dis)enchantments and perambulations: walking arts and reluctant heritage
Two walks and two events forming a ‘public’ viva for my creative-practice-as-research PhD submission exploring walking/multimedia arts and reluctant heritage. The walks retrace routes from two projects, Sweet Waters and Honouring Esther forming the research presented, The two events provide an opportunity to view and discuss some of the documentation and new installation work produced.

Thursday June 27 Burdall’s Yard, 7a Anglo Terrace, London Road, Bath, BA1 5NH 18.00 – 20.00. Free entry
(dis)enchantments and perambulations: screenings and discussion
Informal screenings and discussion of media work from Sweet Waters and Honouring Esther.

Thursday 18 July to Tuesday 23 July Corsham Court Long Gallery, Corsham
(dis)enchantments and perambulations: an installation the PhD show

  • Thursday and Friday 10.00-18.00 Open as work in progress
  • Preview: Thursday 18.00-19.45
  • Saturday 0930 walk : a (dis)enchantment  approx 2 miles. meet at the main gate
  • Saturday 11.00-16.00          Closed Sunday and Monday
  • Tuesday 11.00-13.00

Corsham Court, Church Street, Wiltshire, Corsham SN13 0BZ

NB: Free entry but please note there is no parking on the Corsham Court site for visitors to this exhibition. this is a Bath Spa University event and does not provide access to the Methuen collection or the grounds.

Sunday 2 June: re-walking, re-remembering Forced Walks:Honouring Esther
An all day walk from Frome to Bath retracing the route of the Honouring Esther walks in Somerset. approx 15 miles. Meet outside Cheese and Grain, Frome 10.45. Details here

Sunday 7 July: re-tracing and re-membering legacies of slave-ownership in Bath
An all day walk on the triangular route emerging from the Sweet Waters project. From the centre of Bath towards Beckford’s Tower and returning passing Saltford Brass Mill. Approx 12 miles. Meet outside 44AD ArtSpace 09.30.

These two cycles of walks juxtapose the experience of walking for pleasure with coerced walking and forced migration. Honouring Esther attended to a Nazi death march and Sweet Waters explores the legacies of slave-ownership in Bath and along the River Avon. Both projects develop an iteration of a ‘walking-with’ approach towards revealing and countering reluctant heritage.

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Relational Intelligence

Relational Intelligence: A Contact Improvisation and Ensemble Improvisation Skills Workshop
by Nita Little

When bodies meet, intelligence is found in the quality of touch, the organization of physical forms, the ability to share the physics of motion, timing, and the giving and receiving of weight – but it is also and particularly in our ability to communicate.

Diving into duets and ensembles, we will develop our tactile networks of attention. We will play with metaphors that arise when we move together, extracting personal wisdom from our shared dancing.

A rare opportunity to spend 3 days with Nita Little (USA). Nita is a co-founder of CI and an activist for relational intelligence through dance.

Dates: 25th and 26th May, from 10am to 6pm
Location: Bath Spa University – Room UT 113
Cost: Bath Spa Students: £75; Concessions: £95; General: £115

Please, if you didn’t work with us yet, drop us a line about your experience with CI and interests:

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Travelling backwards to the Underground Railroad

reflections on a week in Ontario, Canada

After a days walking in the city, leaving facing backwards watching skyscrapers shrink to distant stubs, it struck me that Toronto Ontario sounds like some kind of palindrome. Not quite reading forwards and backwards just strangely changed with the same sounds if not the same letters. Clickety-clack looking back heading from Toronto to London Ontario with more ons than offs and certainly I already needed more than the mere horizontal control so kindly provided by the pavements of the Indian Road.

I was in Canada with a group of colleagues following the increasingly strange trail of the Underground Railroad as part of a project called Phantoms of the Past. Some of the Phantoms proving to be barely remembered ghosts other white settler zombies, obscured and reluctant spectres of colonisation retaining something of their evil DNA. Indian Road is a pleasant tree lined suburban street, gentle bends in the way reflecting its past as a trail to the lakeshore far older than the oldest houses. Ghosts of indigenous people trading with settlers passed me as black birds and black squirrels heading down to the great water. The art gallery acknowledge their presence and invisibly a First Nations locative app geo-tagged the line on the map bring me to this disturbance in the geometric certainty of city street grid.

Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto

Riding backwards on a train stopping twice at each station as it was too long to stop just the once, arriving backwards in the dark to London Ontario. Jet lag compounded with colony lag, settler lag, time lag, map lag, lag lag. The names on the map and in the white people’s talk are as if from the time travel story where the consequences of stepping off the Jurassic path, mutated over the traversed millenia, is manifested in spelling and unease. London Ontario has the River Thames running through it, Essex and Chatham-Kent just down the road but both to the west; it has a Cheapside, an Oxford Street and a St Paul’s Cathedral where once on the eve of the American Civil War a preacher gave a fiery sermon in favour of abolition to a crowd roaring him on. I am disoriented. Emancipation day now barely resonates as a whisper on Civic Holiday.

The names are disorienting in the way they carry settler memories, perhaps once inscribing the land with familiar names as security. Maybe the English were first to settle there, but for sure I know where the River Thames is and it’s not in Canada, that river had a name people used before the settlers arrived. They lost it, couldn’t be bothered to learn it, were afraid of it, thought their names were better. Imposing white familiarity and security, names and languages are suppressed but in the coyote, the sound of woodpeckers and in graffiti and in sound of water in the river, there is phantom memory.

And those Canadian red breasted birds may carry the name settlers gave them but for sure, they are not Robins. I know, however, that the starlings are indeed starlings thanks to a white Shakespeare enthusiast who released a flock in New York for the sound of their calls and perhaps the shapes of their pestilential murmurations. Dissonant sounds, dissonant names, the calls of wild green parakeets in London are not the same. This is white colonial stuff, the erasure and rendering invisible of indigenous culture. Powerful and moving presentation by Jenna Rose Sands showing zines documenting Atrocities Against Indigenous Canadians.  Learn the history of the land you build your life on.

State sanctioned residential schools tore children from parents in an organised strategy of  indoctrination disconnecting them from their culture. Residential was essential because a Canadian Prime Minister once said, learning at home would simply produce savages who could read and write. The last residential school closed in 1996. A young generation trying to put something back together, the original design broken.

Meanwhile at the terminus of the Undergound Railway all was not what it seemed. An intensive immersion begins at Dawn, at Chatham Kent, continues via Dresden and burst in my head at a village no longer called Wilberforce but Lucan…imagine your favourite dodgy aristocrat. Where a museum dedicated to the memory of an Irish family feud and massacre can’t seem to find an authentic relic, confines the history of a settlement of pioneering Black people from the United State to a few panels in a corner and offers the entire history of all the people who were there before to a small glass topped container the size of a shoe box. The unlit box holds random finds, tiny arrowheads and other carefully shaped stones from indeterminate periods of human wayfaring in this once wooded space. We visit old grey wooden houses moved by flatbed truck from other places to serve the massacre myth. Sensed loving presences in the warm wood of the upstairs room in the house where the last resident was born belie the part the building was shipped in to play in this drama. I closed the front door latch remembering Bachelard, and snapped the lock shut.

Up the road in the graveyard, broken memorial stones beside a shed, almost cared for, a cluster of graves from a Black settlement that uprooted themselves from Cincinatti’s racist laws to make a farming community in Canada. Perhaps then to find an insidious racism, the slow white supremacist poison the European settlers brought with them. The farms are gone and people dispersed, some graves remain. Almost cared for. We spend a moment with them. Reflecting.

I came to London Ontario backwards on a slow train and we travelled from one displaced place to another in an entangled geography of colony and myth. We were, I was told, to visit Uncle Tom’s Cabin and so on that first day we pile into the american yellow school bus of childhood memory and old hippy delight for a journey that would indeed take me furthur. Although that was not the destination indicated. It was to Chatham and not the one in the Medway ports and Dickens bleak marshes. We were going to Uncle Tom’s Cabin at Dawn. A white man visiting Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a bit tricky from the start as I had in my head the idea of an ‘Uncle Tom’ as an insult directed to a black man overly compliant and grateful for being ‘given’ his freedom by white masters. So our white party arrived, with just one black professor and no black students. I had never read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I had a vague idea of some of the names of the leaders of the Underground Railroad…Harriet Tubman er um Josiah Henson…er um. But I knew my Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. This was terrifying on so many accounts was I going to be complicit in sustaining the celebration of the original Uncle Tom?

We took our seats in the auditorium and the curator a descendant from escaped slaves who had made their homes and farmed nearby began. He opened with a tv quiz show adaptation, Black Jeopardy. At once relief that this story appeared to be being owned by black people and not told by whites as I had feared, and the core of my prejudices that had left Uncle Tom’s Cabin unread. At the same time terror that my general knowledge might be racialised as white. The knots liberal whites tie themselves in. In the spirit of the yellow bus I tuned in and was reminded of the terrors and scale of the forced migration that this place represented, in the museum in the memorabilia of that hell, a brass manilla possibly manufactured along the River Avon, Bath, England.

Thus I got to know about the communities of escaped slaves, self emancipated black people and others who bought and leased land in the area. Looking out over glacier scraped undulating land from the door of the Cabin in the community named with such hope as Dawn, we were told that, once, as far as you could see there were black settler farms. I learned about Josiah Henson and his difficult relationship with his novelised life as Uncle Tom and the significance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in focussing the abolition movement. Following the thread, the construction of the still compliant gratefully released slave and the white generated iconography of the Underground Railway I came back to that white supremacy, white settler, legacies of slaveownership, colonisation.

Unravelling these threads of Uncle Tom I learned about a newspaper owned and edited by a black woman, Mary Ann Shadd, the black provincial press, here was once an advanced thriving region of black communities. We learned about resistance, the young escaped slave recaptured and an entire community turning out to stop the train and release him. The independent black business woman who refused to leave a whites only part of a cinema, at least we know about Rosa Parks…but I had not heard of Viola Desmond, now on the Canada 10 dollar bill. Communities that sent soldiers to fight in the US Civil War to free their enslaved brothers and sisters. Connected communities that followed the progress of escapees up the Railroad and prepared a welcome home for them. Ringing the freedom bell and building a house for them. Communities dispersed but still connected, an annual homecoming attracts thousands.

At Buxton there were no healing waters, the coke machine was lined up with museum text and disturbingly normalised images of the brutalisation of enslaved people. Visitors look back at random African cultural artefacts from the timbers of a thoroughly sanitised slave ship experience. I wondered who this was for, to shock white children or for white liberals to look at. Here was the ghost of Uncle Tom in a display about railway porters, leaving the land for servile work, pushed off the land maybe as that poison of white settler supremacy gathered strength. Just a few black farmers left, agribusiness moving in, the alliances of white capital and the absence of social repair was poignant. Here in Buxton there was contact between those who had had their land taken away from them and those who had been taken from their lands. I wanted to know more.

I wanted to know more. I wanted to know more about the white people, how did this happen. In the cluster of moved buildings that remain of Dawn, near Josiah Hensons grave, we sang in the chapel a song from the Underground Railroad ironically better known by the English as their rugby supporters anthem. In the brief silence maybe we reflected on our accountability in this. Seeing the branding irons of the master’s initials and having been beaten severely in his days of enslavement for trying to decipher and learn to read those letters, Henson vowed never to learn to read or write but toured with his story, ghosted and published by someone else. A white man perhaps. Then repurposed by Stowe, a white woman.

We learned of Henson’s intervention at the Crystal Palace 1851 World Fair when the white US shipper would not release the wood shipped from Henson’s land and prepared by him for display, Henson had painted on the wood the information THIS IS THE PRODUCT OF THE INDUSTRY OF A FUGITIVE SLAVE FROM THE UNITED STATES, WHOSE RESIDENCE IS DAWN, CANADA.

So much more now fast receding in memory as I travel again facing backwards leaving London Ontario in the street light glow. The plaques the plaques….Time to look forwards and reflect…walking whilst white.

I visited Uncle Toms Cabin Historic Site Museum

Chatham-Kent Black Historical Site

Lucan Area Heritage and Donnelly Museum

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Exhibition and workshops in Stroud

I am showing work here alongside Walking the Land artists and offering a short textual intervention with the Space, Place, Practice research group. We give the idea of enchantment ‘a good frisk’, according to one writer. The exhibition takes place at the Museum in the Park, private view Wednesday 17 April and other workshops running through to Sunday 28 April

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Enchantment and re-enchantment

to start the year lets begin here with a different map

blake pilgrimsprogress1

 asked what does re-enchantment mean to me…and it turns to a rant

I challenge the notion of re-enchantment!


To me re-enchantment speaks of an anthropocentric ecology reflecting modern western/enlightenment ideas of landscape, terrain and environment, implying a separation between human and nature, mind and body and cognitive versus embodied knowing.

Re-enchantment implies an action on something that is no longer enchanted and thus some kind of judgment that it needs to be re-enchanted. It resonates for me with a romanticisation of traditional cultures that conceals the impact of colonisation and other inequalities.

It embodies a nostalgia for an ‘enchanted’ past and enchanted registers of knowing. An attempt to reinstate an imagined way of being, a desire to uncritically reconstruct those old ways according to a vision of the past seen from the present.  Extending this notion of re-enchantment has the potential to obscure present day contradictions, injustices and the achievements of past struggles. Re-enchantment is the antithesis of becoming accountable.  Re-enchantment has the same set of problematics as ‘re-wilding’ proposals have in post industrial colonising countries of the Northern Hemisphere. Ecologies evolve, the designation and removal of ‘pests’ and predators and the nurturing of species as servants and as food for humans is part of the impact of our species in these times known as the Anthropocene. We may wish to review some kind of mitigation of our impact but in my opinion re-enchantment and re-wilding are all part of the same phenomenon trying to roll back a clock that can’t be rolled back (like Brexit!) it is a rhetoric that obscures rather than reveals.

and then the wise stops me in my tracks and says maybe The Anthropocene is the ultimate conceit of our species

…but if you want to talk about feral, count me in!

In short, I don’t really like the word ‘enchantment’. I do, however, recognise that an alertness and sensitivity to the spectral, living and non living things to the currently unknown and that which may never be known in the western academic tradition brings a richer experience of life. I join those who argue that in the Slow we find that enchantment has always been present, its just a different way of knowing.


The idea of enchantment embodied in re-enchantment however, implies some kind of magic or illusion, a mystical control in which knowledge is power held by someone or something other. I think of pantomime and fairy tales, as in Babes in the Wood where children are lost and eaten in the enchanted forest, or in the Wizard of Oz  where Lion falls asleep the enchanted poppy fields and almost doesnt discover his courage. There is a macabre element of a spell that needs to be lifted or resisted as in Bunyan’s allegory, Pilgrims Progress, where walking through the Enchanted Lands travellers are seduced to sleep forever never to reach the Celestial City and redemption.

and then the wise stops me again and says:

‘enchantment’ has value at least in countering the rational

We can recover linguistically from enchantment and the equally problematic western romanticisation of indigenous and colonised people’s ontologies by thinking and making work in terms of non modern sensibilities. It this I prefer to do, and believe that, in terms of walking arts, a phenomenological approach may be the way forward, becoming better attuned to our bodies and all our senses, developing intuition and sensibilities towards peripheral intelligence. Deep slow connected understandings. Becoming accountable through the corporeal activity of walking, developing responses to what we sense and learn and thereby becoming response-able as fellow creatures in this life on this planet.


What would  disenchanted be like?

I dispute the notion of disenchantment!

It would be interesting to explore the enchantment of the our surroundings and consider what such enchantments obscure or seek to obscure.

A (dis)enchanted space is what becomes if we inhabited it response-ably. Alert to its layers of time and life, responding to it as part of a connected sensing ecology. Aware of the enchantments and illusions whether they are of the Disney English Heritage variety or the romanticisation of old ways. Even field boundaries tell a stories of enclosure and clearance, power and dispossession. Aware of human ownership and contested territory as well as the power of things, the voice of the waters and the surveilled space of the raptor. A space sensing its temporal, spatial and affective intra-connectedness.

I’ll go for a feral space affectively engaged with its past, present and future, relaxed about stuff unknown or perhaps stuff humans have yet to find a way to articulate. Maybe thats our role as artists finding ways of articulating and manifesting that stuff. Becoming accountable. Slower more respectful. Still learning how to be with each other as we evolve. Still discovering and generating new knowledge. Non-modern. Still working on it but better connected. Hanging on for dear life as the planet spins!


…and maybe its is the ultimate mind trick of the Enlightenment… has deprived those who have grow up in its hegemonic thrall of the ability to experience awe.

A thought habit that needs to change.











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Sweet Waters: Soundings

Sweet Waters: Soundings from the walks

Saturday 21 October from 13.00-16.00

Saltford Brass Mill
The Shallows
BS31 3EY

an installation in sound and images

Responses and resonances sense-ing legacies of slave-ownership in Bath and along the River Avon….visit the Mill discover sounds and images gathered from the Sweet Waters walks and related research along side the existing information and orientation

Sweet Waters graphic final

Working with field recordings, background research and other materials this begins a reporting phase from the Sweet Waters project.  The Mill is a relic of an industry producing brass goods that were loaded on ships from Bristol and traded for enslaved people. The water wheel still turns and the installations will respond to the watery sonic environment, repatriating sounds of the manufacture of goods destined for the West Coast of Africa.

Sweet Waters is a wayfaring through interconnected cycles of Water and Trade exploring legacies and revealing resonances:

Water: from rain to river to sea to sky and back, power and transport, plantation irrigation and country park decoration. The river washed away the sweat of the brass workers, returning slave ships were scrubbed down into it, while the tears of those who lost loved ones to the slavers flowed to the sea in the rivers of West Africa. In the water: blood, vomit, excretia, the dissolved and digested flesh of those who resisted, sea-sick, home-sick, tears of grief, tears of despair, blood of punishment and cold sweat of survival. In the vast Atlantic Ocean there are generations of lives thrown overboard as damaged goods, food for fish and cowries. Heritage, memories, stories, languages.

Trade: the Triangular Trade: products made and transported on the River Avon shipped to West Africa and sold for enslaved people, those who survived the crossing were sold again to work in field and factory, the materials they produced and the wealth generated returned up the River Avon. Sugar. Tobacco. Timber. Wealth fuelling industrial development and embodied in country houses and the fine buildings Bristol and Bath.
So when it rains in Bath or Bristol or when the river swells with the tide and as the water turns the Saltford millwheel we remember and sense legacies of slave-ownership. We are mindful of our heritage. We are connected. Sweet Waters.



Legacies I am reflecting on

Global warming begins at the hearth of the slave-owning nations, hurricanes today drawing up the warmed Atlantic waters.

Colonial assertions of white skinned dominance feeds deep and long-lasting racism and the trauma of enslavement continues to fills prisons and mental hospitals.

Weapons from England sold in West Africa escalate violence and dislocation.

Cultures of addiction, sugar, tobacco, tea, coffee chocolate on which slave-owners fortunes are made.

Slave-owner wealth embodied in grand houses, parklands and cityscapes.

Enslaved people who survived carried beliefs, skills, stories and sound memories into the cultures they fashioned.

Echoes of resistance and survival in the popular music of today.


Richard White 2017

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Sweet Waters Holburne Museum to Beckfords Tower

A first stab at writing up my notes:

I come back from a walk a different person

Walk 1 From the Holburne Museum to Beckfords Towerbriefing at Holburne
Bath’s Last Legal Slaveowners
2 proper tour guides on this first day walking team and I’m on stage edgey
One from the buses, the other from mad max.

and me.

Gathering in the sun outside the pillared temple of the museum at the top of Pulteney Street. Architectural icons from ancient slave economies fetished to represent learning and authority. The Roman Baths were discovered under the offices of Bath’s Poor Law Guardians. (archaeologicial irony)

Slaves ancient and modern, just like the poor of the City have no voice here.

Don’t mention the sugar.

Sugar that sweetened the tea and transformed chocolate to sweet treat.

Sweet ease of polite society hiding in glass cabineted silver bowls and tongs

No tongues for the sugar nips

Don’t mention the sugar, the Holburne doesnt


First thing in the high ceilinged morning cool gallery we talk in hushed tones. We drift toward Gainsborough’s portrait of slaveowners. One of the largest canvases he painted, it says. These were the people who came to the enchanted city to take the waters, to recover from the heat and disease, to network, to speculate, to gamble. The Byams, a family with its feet deep in the blood and flesh of the slave worked plantation economy. Gainsborough painted them. Pulteney financed accommodation for them, speculating with profits won from stolen land and stolen lives. The enchanted city flourished on their wealth and patronage

Gainsborough George Byam
Out to the pleasure gardens to alert senses and sensibility.

Listen. Touch. Feel. Think.

Get the Jane Austen lived there, walked here, bit. Over.

out into the park

And we walked too, stopping at the claimants addresses for:
A ritual reading of the ‘charge sheet’.
The address in Bath, where we stood;

The name of the slave-owner who lived there
Date of the court order;
Number of enslaved people;
Name of the plantation, parish, Caribbean island;
Number of pounds paid out in ‘compensation’ to the slave-owner
Those released received no compensation

I heard echoes of Linton Kwesi Johnson and the New Cross Fire

“13 dead and nothing said”

I try to break the silence of this enchanted city
A run of performative statements repetitive intentional becoming disturbing:

20 million paid out and nothing said

How many lives lost, how many lives never lived. How much life blighted.


Sweat in the water. Blood in the sea

Reading Dabydeen aloud and suggesting Turner’s hypocrisy

Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying – Typhon coming on. 1840

The water cycle brings it all back to us now.


A Turner painting survives as the only record of Beckford’s monumental plantation-wealth funded Abbey

Did Beckford introduce Turner to a speculative money spinner, spun on lives and sugar?

Was he feeling guilty by 1840, decades after the Zong massacre?
In Bath no memorials only silent monuments to slave generated wealth:

Pulteney bridge

Guinea Lane

Beckfords tower.

We walk a city inscribed, the origins of its wealth obscured


Braikenridge collected watercolours of the rural South West,

just bought more with his compensation.

It was for others to create the plantation picturesque.

On Queens Square where Braikenridge claimed his share of the £20million there is no letter box for me to deliver his souvenir plaque. (architectural irony)

A conversation at a hotel on Pulteney street.

George Orwell’s grandparents claimed compensation from here.

The re-writing of history. (literary irony)
Outside the Park Street residence of Nathaniel Wells

First black JP and Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire. (no plaque)

Slaveowner. (no irony)

A conversation regarding family and loyalty.

The training of the white landed elite.

Power. Ruthlessness.

Hold a mirror to our modern European sensibilities and assumptions.

Raised as white elite, why would Wells have felt any more responsibility to his kin than to his class?


A conversation regarding performance…overkill? Repetitive?
Does a performative walk on such a theme need to be fun…does it need a distance?

What to do with the upset and anger.

Are we afraid of what we might unleash in ourselves?

Or had we just walked too far in the same direction?
Mad max suggests a making link to the Romans and get a laugh from lazy ‘locals’ enslaved to work at the baths.

It connects Horrible History style but denies.

I want to connect emotionally empathically. Taste the sweetness and think of human flesh digested by cowries in the ocean. Feel the rain and wonder about the memory of water. Hear the beat and dance to it.

The senses connect differently

towards the tower
At last bursting out to country

The finest view in England, so Beckford said.

Green treed river snaking through the valley

Watered with Atlantic rain.

Down there driven by water wheels

brass mills battered and thudded

Neptunes and Guinea pots

Brass manillas by the hundredweight

The currency of the slave trade

To go on the river to Bristol

For the slave ships across the sea to West Africa

To trade in human lives

Turner Beckford

On the grass at Beckford’s grave, the gilded tower behind us

Reading Dabydeen’s  Turner and looking at Turner’s slave ship painting

A conversation on scuba diving in the Caribbean connects:

Heritage in the water.

Or as Derek Walcott put it far better than I

Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that gray vault. The sea. The sea
has locked them up. The sea is History.

We conclude with the sweetness. Sugar cake.

Kendal Mint Cake for walkers, Wordsworth and sensory memory

Mindful of the cycle of water

Even if it the molecules don’t hold

We make memory at this place, at Beckfords grave.


We connect, bear witness, then climb the tower.

I came back from the walk a different person


(quoted The Sea Is History – Poem by Derek Walcott)